Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against Uber Blames Deficient Safety Measures, Background Checks for Attacks by Drivers
Four separate rideshare passengers have joined together to file a sexual assault lawsuit against Uber, indicating they were each attacked by sexual predators while using the service, due to the company’s failure to provide adequate safety protections for passengers, including background checks on Uber drivers.
The complaint (PDF) was brought by individuals identified by the alias Jane Roes CL 1 through 3, and John Roe CL 1, seeking damages for sexual assaults from Uber Technologies Inc., and Raiser, LLC as defendants.
These plaintiffs join a growing number of users of the rideshare service who have filed similar sexual assault lawsuits in recent months, each alleging that the company failed to take appropriate safety precautions that could have prevented sexual predators working as ride share drivers from targeting Uber passengers on a regular basis.
Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, the Uber sexual assault lawsuits indicate that the company never used that money to actually make its passengers safer, providing only cursory background checks for drivers. The company also failed to provide surveillance cameras inside of cars, did not allow passengers to make requests regarding the gender of drivers, and failed to train drivers on issues of sexual assault and harassment.
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In this latest lawsuit, the plaintiffs indicate they were all assaulted by Uber drivers while riding as customers in vehicles assigned by the rideshare app. In one case, plaintiff Jane Roe CL 1 indicates she fought off an attempted rape in Chicago when she used the Uber service to go home from the party because she had been drinking.
Another plaintiff indicates she was groped by a driver in Tennessee and escaped with the aid of nearby hotel staff, and another found herself locked in an Uber driver’s car while he drove her to an abandoned parking lot and tried to rape her. She fortunately fought off the driver and escaped.
In the case of the plaintiff identified as John Roe CL 1, the attack came in August 22, in Phoenix, Arizona, when his Uber driver climbed into the back seat, and tried to remove his pants and grope at his genitals. He was able to fight off the driver and run back to his hotel.
Even though Uber markets itself as a safe way for those who do not have transportation, or have been drinking to get home without getting behind the wheel, the lawsuit indicates the company makes virtually no effort to ensure the drivers themselves are safe and reliable.
“Even today, the hiring of Uber drivers occurs without any real screening. Potential Uber drivers merely fill out a form online,” the lawsuit states. “There is no interview either in person or through online platforms such as Skype or Zoom. There is no biometric fingerprinting or fulsome criminal background checks. There is no verification that the social security numbers and other personal identification numbers submitted through the application process do, in fact, belong to the applicants.”
Plaintiffs say Uber fails to do adequate background checks, fails to monitor passenger safety, fails to give its drivers sexual assault training, and for years has failed to adequately report incidents of sexual assault linked to its drivers.
The lawsuit presents claims of general negligence, common-carrier negligence- negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, negligent failure to warn, vicarious liability for the torts of Uber drivers, and strict product liability.
September 2023 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update
In July, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), asking it to consolidate all Uber assault lawsuits before one federal judge for pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of California.
The motion indicates there may eventually be thousands of lawsuits filed by individuals who were also sexually assaulted or harassed by Uber drivers, each raising common questions of fact and law against the rideshare company. Plaintiffs argue consolidation is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and promote judicial efficiencies.
On August 11, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session indicating it will hear oral arguments over Uber sexual assault lawsuit consolidation on September 28. Uber has opposed consolidation of the claims, indicating that it wants to defend each of the lawsuits separately, even though they each raise nearly identical allegations.
If an MDL is established, each individual claim would be transferred to one U.S. District Judge for pretrial proceedings and a series of bellwether trial designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Uber sexual assault settlements are not reached to resolve large numbers of claims, each individual lawsuit may later be returned back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.
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